Thursday, September 11, 2014

A toast to the elephant that got away

A strange Charlotte anniversary may have escaped your attention, but you can mark the occasion any time with a special glass of ale an hour northwest of here in Granite Falls.

Then and now, you will not immediately see the 2,300-pound elephant.

Sunday, Sept. 11, 1955, a 6-year-old Indian elephant named Vicki escaped from the Airport Amusement Park, a circus on Wilkinson Boulevard not far from what was then Douglas Municipal Airport.

It took nine days to recapture her.

The fugitive pachyderm wandered through neighborhoods, not responding to her handler, other elephants used to lure Vicki home, pit traps nor assorted volunteers.

Nine days later, she ended up in an enclosed field, then returned ‑- exhausted -- to the amusement park.

Charles Kurault, then a writer for The Charlotte News, wrote quite a story about it;  you'll find it here

Two years later, Vicki was sold to A.L. Lord, who operated Granada Farms Zoo, an animal attraction in Granite Falls.

It is said foot injuries sustained during her Charlotte escape never healed; Vicki was found to have an incurable infection and the peanut-eating teen was euthanized in 1958.

But the story doesn't end there.

Her 2 ton-plus body was buried at the zoo. In 1973. the immediate area was redeveloped as a golf course; Vicki is said to rest under the No. 3 fairway.

The links are part of a residential development still called Granada Farms. Ironically, in light of Vicki being there, it is a gated community.

Mario Mastroeli,  the owner of Granite Falls Brewing lives near  there, and his micro offers Vicki the Elephant Peanut Butter Al, which Kyle Case of the brewery describes as "a light ale with a subtle peanut butter note."

Yep. Peanut butter.

It was concocted as a small-batch novelty item, but proved so popular that it's still being made. "It's probably one of our top-5 sellers," Chase noted.

The ale goes for $4 a pint. You can raise a glass of it to Vicki from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or so, Mondays through Saturdays.

GFBC also has an on-site restaurant. On the menu is the Late Night Burger, which has bacon and peanut butter.

Do they sell peanuts, too?

"No," Case said. "But we give out buckets of them at festivals and outings when we go out to sell beer."

Granite Falls will begin bottling its products within the next several months, and Case said Vicki the Elephant Peanut Butter Ale will probably go that route.

Maybe the spirit of Vicki will be back in Charlotte.